If you're renting or looking for an apartment in Florida, you're covered by Florida state laws and the Fair Housing Act, which protect tenants and prospective tenants alike from illegal housing discrimination based on a number of protected classes.
Who Is Protected Under Florida's Fair Housing Laws?
The Fair Housing Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination in home sales, financing, and rentals based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In Florida, Fla. Stat. §§ 760.20-760.60 also prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, familial status or religion. Under these laws, apartment dwellers in all parts of Florida have the right to enjoy their housing without facing discrimination based on seven protected classes. They include:
- Race: Landlords cannot consider the race of a tenant or prospective tenant when making decisions about their housing.
- Color: The color of a prospective tenant or buyer cannot play any role in a person's ability to have access to housing.
- Religion: The religion you practice or do not practice cannot give you preferential treatment or cause you to not be considered for a property.
- National Origin: Where your family is from should not play into a landlord or seller's decision to rent or sell their property to you.
- Sex: Landlords cannot consider the sex of a tenant or prospective tenant when making decisions about their housing.
- Disability: Under the law, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that can substantially limit one or more major life activities. This can include things such as chronic illness, mental illness, HIV or AIDS, alcoholism or a physical handicap, among others.
- Familial Status: This class covers children under 18 living with parents or others with legal custody, or with a designee of the parent with written permission, a person who is pregnant or a person who is seeking custody of a person under 18. Not only can landlords not refuse to sell or rent to families with children, but they may not deem a property "adults only." In addition, if you are charged a per person rental fee, this may be considered discrimination on the basis of familial status.
While some states offer protections for additional classes, such as sexual orientation or marital status, Florida does not.
How to Spot Discrimination
If you are told one thing on the phone by a landlord but are told different terms, pricing or availability upon a landlord seeing you in person, this is one sign that you are being discriminated against. Other red flags include being told that a different apartment might fit your situation better; having a prospective landlord tell you about background or criminal checks over and over; refusal to provide handicapped parking; and being told there is a no pets policy, even if you have a service animal, among other issues. Everyone deserves access to fair housing.
In Florida, aggrieved persons may file a civil lawsuit within two years after a discriminatory act occurs. If you feel that you have been discriminated against, contact the Florida Commission on Human Relations or your local housing authority.